The doyenne of the imaginative event and retail scene, Amanda prioritises creative longevity and renewal above all else. Idea generation comes first, structured into her day via a ‘dripping tap technique’, with idea steeping time masked as ‘incessant tea breaks’!
Prepare yourselves for a bounty of creative wisdom!
Amanda Henderson of Gloss Creative has a routine that resembles a dance. She combines the slow and thoughtful, with the swift and steady execution of ideas. On any given day, she’ll pivot from having her shoes off in the office, to donning Gucci boots in an important client meeting.
With a day that begins with a long walk through local gardens, to an afternoon peppered with many cups of tea and conversation with colleagues, Amanda recognises that good ideas take time. She is a fierce rejector of unnecessary ‘busyness’.
‘My routine is about protecting my creative longevity and renewal. I take every Friday off, and I make sure that generating ideas comes above all else in the construct of my day.’
Time, looseness, simplicity and what Henderson refers to as ‘super-slackness’ is favoured in the creation process – and the method must be working. For over 15 years, the ideas and concepts delivered by Gloss Creative have been magnificent in the truest sense of the word. Henderson and her team of staff consistently redefine visual merchandising to create some of the best temporary set designs for runways, retail environments, marquees, and events in Australia that become everlasting.
With an endless list of projects and clients including Myer, Omega, Kookai, Bank of Melbourne, and many more, there is a natural assumption that coming up with endless ideas would be daunting or overwhelming, but not for Henderson. ‘My life’s motto comes from my grandma which is: keep on keeping on. I’m just trained to do.’
Amanda intends to keep on keeping on for a long time yet. ‘My Dad worked till he was 87-years-old and I still want to be in my eighties and working.’
The secret? ‘It’s food, feet and sleep. If you’re moving, eating well and sleeping well, it’s the key to a good life.’
Sometimes I wake up at 3:00 or 4:00 with either a niggling feeling that there is something I haven’t done, or some kind of mental clarity of how something can be pulled together – that missing piece. I will often write it down and go back to sleep.
Three times a week I’ll go for a walk and try to get close to 10,000 steps in before 9:00. I walk to coffee, and walk back home through the most beautiful parks and gardens. Walking is similar to those early hours in the morning – my mind can be filled with ideas, whether it’s work or pleasure.
If I don’t go for a walk, I’m usually talking on my phone or on my computer in bed. I’ll often have two or three phone calls in the morning.
For breakfast I pretty much just have fruit, Greek yogurt and honey with seeds, or something like that. If it’s a big day I’ll add in the avocado smash.
A big change I made last year was to start at the studio at 9:30 and give everyone time to do what they have to in the morning.
We do try and schedule the most important creative tasks for the morning, depending on whether we’re in a creative development phase or a production phase for a project. If it’s a creative development phase, we’ll spend all of our time sitting around a table talking about the brief and what we think it could be, getting any information about sites, and stuff like that.
After we’ve grouped in the morning, the team will be doing what they’re doing and I might go off to site meetings, client meetings, menu tastings, supply meetings…
If I’m in the office, we have a dripping tap technique where we’ll come back and talk about ideas throughout the day and change them and move them forward. We’ll often work in blocks of 45 minutes and then stop and talk about an idea for five or 10 minutes, before going back to our work.
We have incessant tea and coffee breaks, too. We think sometimes we’re wasting time, but I actually don’t think we are. We’re often evolving our ideas.
By midday the whole team is usually saying they’re starving. We all pile into the kitchen around the AGA cooker and talk out any boyfriend issues, or about husbands, children, parents, and friends. We talk about everything!
In the afternoon there is usually more tea and cake. One thing that people say to me all the time is that I must be so crazy busy. We are, but I don’t like this fussiness around being busy, I don’t think it’s warranted. I think for me the perfect thing is to be working, have enough freedom to dream a little, and enough skilled people with you to get through what you have to get through efficiently.
I can be a procrastinator, but it gets to a point where I’ve just got to do it. I definitely don’t worry about it as much as I used to. I’ve done thousands of ideas and delivered them over the years. I just know that everything can be solved or created or managed. It’s not to say that I know everything. I’m always in the unknown, but I just keep going and over time it becomes an underlying technique – to push through when you’re stuck.
Sometimes there can be really long days, but we go home at 17:30 or 18:00 most days. We don’t work late unless it is needed – that’s one of the differences between a small boutique business and a corporation. I don’t let my team do anything that’s not necessary.
Depending on who is home, I’ll make dinner. I’m trying to be a bit more planned and make healthy simple meals at night – they don’t have to be perfect, or from the pages of the cookbooks that I love to read!
That’s the other thing about perfection – our kitchen floor probably needs sweeping, but my approach is to get it to a point of some sort of organised chaos; where we can be happy with how the house looks, but it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Doing things well and with style, to the point that I require, is way more valuable to me as a person.
I don’t do a lot in the evening. We might have friends over, or go to a friend’s place to play Scrabble, or I’ll jump on Net-A-Porter to look at new fashion trends.
We’ve got books galore and I’ve always got a pile of the latest cookbooks and magazines, so we might sit around with our daughter and just look through.
A bit of the internet, a bit of books, a bit of Netflix – I’ll jump around and do all kinds of things under the guise of ‘relaxing’.
I don’t really have a wind-down routine, I just get tired, want to go to bed, and fall asleep very easily. I try to go to bed early because I’m really conscious about getting sleep – and I’ll sometimes annoyingly wake up at 4:00!
An extraordinary life is seriously just appreciating and enjoying every day. It really is not going too far ahead of yourself. Have the dreams and all that, but you also have to enjoy every day and try not to get bogged down in the grind.
This story is part of our monthly collaboration with Madeleine Dore of Extraordinary Routines.